The Dillinger Escape Plan

support Cancer Bats + The Ocean
author AP date 06/10/10 venue Markthalle, Hamburg, GER

Meanwhile in Hamburg, little girls were few and far in between as Markthalle prepared to host the menace known as The Dillinger Escape Plan. Myself and photographer Lykke have dutifully made the trip from Copenhagen to bring you this coverage as promised. Nobody likes to perform to a cold crowd though, and for warming-up purposes the mathcore legends have tapped support bands from other ends of the genre: German progressive hardcore collective The Ocean, and Canadian hardcore punk n' rollers Cancer Bats. With such fine acts on the bill as well, the trip should be worth the money, time and effort, but were their performances? Read on to find out.

The Ocean

The Ocean places huge emphasis on the visual element of their show. Performing mostly as silhouettes engulfed in blue-green light, the band creates a fantastic atmosphere - one, which mimics the characteristics of an actual ocean. All of the beauty and all of the rage of the farthest, most mysterious seas is captured brilliantly by quiet, lingering melodies, deep excursions into the progressive, and periodic explosions of noise, with each segment complemented by equivalent light effects. When a band succeeds at setting the mood with such simple means, all forms of acrobatics become secondary, possibly even redundant - the audience is already engaged through immersion. But The Ocean don't settle for being doomy. No, their demeanor is far from immobile. Guitarists Jona Nido and Robin Staps have clearly found inspiration for their antics in bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, while vocalist Loïc Rossetti comes across as half Daryl Palumbo, half Tommy Rogers with his frantic, commanding stage presence. Despite initially having the attention of only a handful of people, the mastery with which The Ocean execute their audiovisual performance gradually draws more and more intrigued non-fans toward the stage until the ambient chit chat dies down and all that's left is the powerful sound resonating from the speakers. Like on their albums, The Ocean strive for perfection, and while this is no show of a lifetime, it is a flawlessly executed one.
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Cancer Bats

Cancer Bats are less keen on aesthetics, preferring instead the classic rock n' roll approach to delivering a show. The always charismatic Liam Cormier and his partner in crime, bassist Jaye Schwarzer, ensure that things remain loud and rowdy when hardcore rollers like "Trust No One", "Pneumonia Hawk" and "Sorceress" scale up the intensity; give us lessons in headbanging during "Lucifer's Rocking Chair"; and invite us to mass gang shouting with their take on the Beastie Boys' classic "Sabotage" and the furious set closer "Hail Destroyer". The thing that never seizes to amaze me about Cancer Bats is the sheer level of confidence and crowd control that such a small band can assert, even when the present crowd is likely to be of a far more mathematic disposition, rather than frequent listeners of ballsy Southern hardcore with no frills and few thrills. It's not fair to say that Cancer Bats are a lackluster live act when they are playing in the shadow of The Dillinger Escape Plan, but their performance could use an element of unpredictability. Right now Cancer Bats are a package already unwrapped, and while their attitude and raging passion are enough to assemble quality performances, there is little there to knock you off your feet in awe. What these shows can do, however, is to breathe new life into songs that, on record, have a tendency to sound a little monotonous. Because monotony is probably the last word that pops into one's mind when Cormier is racing across the stage, his redneck cut watering the stage with sweat, screaming "hail destroyer!"

The Dillinger Escape Plan

The infamy that surrounds The Dillinger Escape Plan has grown into mythical proportions. People expect the band to lay waste to everything in their path, destroy their instruments, inflict serious injuries on unsuspecting fans, and be banned from venues; that causing controversy is at the top of their agenda. Judging from some of the Dillinger Escape Plan shows I have seen in my day, such expectations can be justified, but one should never forget that above everything else, The Dillinger Escape Plan is about creating some of the most innovative, trend-bending music on the market. Their prowess is often ignored by fans blinded by psychotic live sets.

With their most mature and eclectic record yet in tow, The Dillinger Escape Plan aim to put a stop to such misconceptions tonight. As "Farewell, Mona Lisa" rolls to its end nothing has broken, and no member has leapt into some poor fan's face knee-first. Make no mistake - the usual guitar swinging and amp stack climbing that has grown to be the Dillinger trademark is still happening at every opportunity. But the fury feels more restrained. Even when mathematic psycho tracks like "Fix Your Face", "Sugar Coated Sour" and "Lurch" are played, Greg Puciato is not hanging from the variety of scaffolding arching over the stage, and Ben Weinman is not surfing the crazed crowd. Instead, the former proves his might as a vocalist in league with Trent Reznor and Mike Patton, while the latter shows off the classical piano skills he acquired during his pre-"Ire Works" injuries.

You see, tonight is about "Option Paralysis", and the songs on that album are much more demanding, both vocally and instrumentally, than material from the band's cacophonous previous albums. But where the frenzy has been toned down songs like "Gold Teeth on a Bum" and "Widower" compensate with structural and instrumental rewards, as the constant escalation of tension toward a grand climax is just as engaging as watching five psychopaths kill everything. Still, "Sunshine the Werewolf" has a legacy to fulfill, having a reputation as the grand finale to a Dillinger Escape Plan show; the four minutes when all common sense is extradited out of the window and pure insanity takes control. Unfortunately, the mayhem that this song has brought with it in the past is not resurrected tonight. In its place is a subsequent three-song encore comprising the seldom heard "Mouth of Ghosts", the always gratifying chaos piece "Panasonic Youth", and one of the first songs Ben Weinman ever wrote for this band, "43% Burnt".

When the set draws to an end, I am left with a slightly bittersweet taste in my mouth, you understand. Having driven for four hours and - perhaps wrongfully - expected a second rendition of the infamous Mean Fiddler show in 2008, the show fails to satisfy my appetite for pandemonium. But looking at the show from a non-personal point of view, it is obvious that The Dillinger Escape Plan are in a league of their own, and no matter how "tame" this band allows itself to be, there still exists no other band with the capacity to execute a performance as energetic and flawless as this.

Setlist:

01. Farewell, Mona Lisa

02. Fix Your Face

03. Milk Lizard

04. Room Full of Eyes

05. Chinese Whispers

06. Sugar Coated Sour

07. Gold Teeth on a Bum

08. Widower

09. Black Bubblegum

10. Good Neighbor

11. Lurch

12. Sunshine the Werewolf

--Encore--

13. Mouth of Ghosts

14. Panasonic Youth

15. 43% Burnt

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